Novels in verse are books with a full and complete plot told in poetic verse. These novels lend themselves to topics that have emotional depth and resonance. Novels in verse can also be laugh out loud funny, and have all the great qualities prose novels have as well, including well-developed characters and an interesting plot. In addition, novels in verse often have the added bonus of a distinct rhythm and, for my fellow over-thinkers, plenty of line break choices worthy of endless analyzing.
These lyrical novels sweep readers away, yet often take less time to finish reading than their prose counterparts. This makes them excellent choices for reluctant readers, as the short sentences and shorter page count can make reading feel less daunting and overwhelming.
Here is a list of some of my favorite novels in verse for middle grade and YA. You can view this as a shoppable list on Bookshop.org here! The Amazon links are each novel’s title. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and Amazon. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: This Middle Grade book chronicles author Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in a beautiful flowing narrative. This is an especially great option for those who struggle with nonfiction, as the storytelling is so well done it is easy to forget it is all based on fact!
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai: This Middle Grade novel offers a fictional account that draws from the author’s experiences as a refugee without being autobiographical.
- Starfish by Lisa Fipps: This Middle Grade novel follows one young girl as she struggles to find where she belongs after her best and only friend moves away. Relatable, realistic characters in relatable, realistic situations that many kids will identify with.
- Golden Girl by Reem Faruqi: This is another excellent Middle Grade novel that has gorgeous, succinct language telling a unique and interesting story. You can read my full review of it here.
- The Places We Sleep by Caroline Brooks DuBois is a Middle Grade historical fiction novel that follows one character in the aftermath of 9/11. You can read my full review here.
- Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac: The only novel I’ve read thus far that actually addresses the COVID pandemic, this Middle Grade read is impossible to put down. Malian was visiting her grandparents on the Wabanaki reservation when COVID caused the Rez to lock down, separating Malian from her parents. As she hears traditional stories from her grandparents and learns more about her family history, Malian learns how to tell her own story.
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is available as a novel in verse and has a graphic novel adaptation. The characters are incredibly well developed, and has some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in a book for any age. It also perfectly captures the voice of a fourteen-year old boy, an age group that is often underrepresented in children’s literature. It’s recommended for ages 10 and up, so it can be upper middle grade or young adult.
- Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo: Told in alternating points of view, this Young Adult novel sweeps the reader away to New York and the Dominican Republic. Acevedo masterfully uses the verse form to tell two intertwining stories with incredible depth and nuance.
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: This Young Adult novel shows the power of finding and using your voice, and sticking up for yourself when there are consequences to that choice. I could not put this one down, and was just blown away by the character development, voice, and plot.
Novels in verse are just as unique and wonderful as traditional prose novels. I hope you give one a try– it might just open up a whole new world of reading!